So, Ted Beale, AKA Vox Day, self-proclaimed genius about everything, has this list of "Questions Atheists Can't Answer."

Either it's a complete troll and he knows better, or he's much less bright than he constantly purports to be.

Below are the questions, and I've provided answers from layman myself (M), a neuroscientist who is also a quite vocal Christian (NEURO), an entomologist whose religious affiliation I do not know (ENT), and a biologist who is an atheist (BIO).

Q1: How do creationists "pose a serious threat to society"?

M: as with any other mythology, they believe things that aren't real, and more importantly, desire to have their myths taught as science with the stated goal of displacing science. Should we also listen to crystal huggers, palm readers, astrologers and UFOers? Also, which creationism? Obviously, Ted and his ilk are hoping for a Christian world, and even state so. But Muslims are working on outnumbering Christians and have their own mythology, anathema to he and his type. With a precedent for teaching myth as science, we would have no ethical standing to stop their "education." And besides, Hindu creation is older, better supported and obviously the correct one. When he agrees to teach it as science, then we can talk.

Of course, since the US courts, composed of judges who are about 80% Christian, based on average demographics, have ruled Creationism is in fact a myth, not science, he can't even claim he's got majority opinion on his side, if the opinion of ignorant non-scientists mattered in this matter, which they do not.

BIO: The threat they pose is dragging us back to the Dark Ages. Most of them deny science in ways far more insidious than “merely” denying evolution. Most of them would happily deny evolution and even the existence of DNA … right up until they needed a paternity test. [This is not hyperbole. I worked with a group of people who did exactly this, until one of their number “had” to fight a paternity suit. He lost. There are reasons I loathed working there.] I’ve gotten to deal with the ones who, even as they work on computers as programmers insist that because “evolution doesn’t exist,” all of our knowledge about chemistry and physics is wrong as well.

NEURO: Response: Creationists pose the exact same threat to society that the IPCC and the AGW crowd does – implying that any scientific inquiry is "closed" and irrefutable. I will be writing an article this summer on "Why Science is Never Settled" in which I look at the historical precedents that the most *certain* scientific (or religious) "fact" is most often found to be wrong.

ENT: And has been mentioned previously, any group that tries to force or establish their dogma as the One True Dogma can be considered a threat to scientific exploration and discovery.

To quote Terry Pratchett, "People think that progress is made by everybody pulling in the same direction. They are wrong. Progress is made by everybody pulling in every direction at once". Trying to channel/fund science that only looks r agrees with the One True Dogma is not going to find as much as if the scientists had been allowed to explore and wander a bit.

Q2: There are an estimated 1,263,186 animal species and 326,175 plant species in the world. Assuming the age of the Earth is 4.54 billion years, what is the average rate of speciation?

M: I don't know whose ass he pulled that number out of, but it's both ludicrously precise and ridiculously low. If he's not even going to pose worthwhile questions or use cites, I don't see much point in responding, but here goes:

Asking the "average rate of speciation" is like asking "how deep is a hole?" The question is meaningless and irrelevant. Beale either knows this (Troll), or has not done his research in the subject to ask a rational question (not as bright as he'd like to hope to think we believe he is).

BIO: Average rates of speciation vary widely between types of creatures – animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses. It’s partly due to generational turn-over – the faster the organism reaches sexual maturity and reproduces (and generally dies) the faster mutation rates accumulate. That’s why there isn’t a single unified DNA “clock” between all organisms. Also, in plants? It’s a lot easier to speciate than it is in animals. Every time a plant’s germ cell fails to perform meiosis correctly, there’s a chance for speciation due to chromosome number changes, particularly in plants that are self-fertile. Bacteria and viruses have it even easier.

NEURO: Response: Average rate of speciation is, as Bio mentioned elsewhere, so variable as to make *this* question the equivalent of "How deep is a hole?" Bio's explanation works very well, and from what we are now learning about epigenetics, it doesn't take much isolation to generate new "sub-species." Keep in mind that the classical Linnaean definition of a species is ability (or lack) to interbreed. Thus all humans are single species (and subspecies are strictly defined by commonly inherited "phenotypes" or visible traits).

ENT: There is no "average rate of speciation". In fact, recent studies suggest that the entire idea of a "molecular clock" is unsupported by genetic evidence. The rate of change at the genetic level is not constant, there will be times of seeming stagnation, and times of rapid speciation.

Also, the number quoted for animals is pathetically low. Insects alone have 900,000 described species.

Which then brings up the headache inducing topic of what a species is.

The old definition of a species, where two individuals can mate and produce fertile offspring has somewhat fallen by the wayside with indications from genetic work that there can be two species that can mate and have fertile hybrids. This happens in plants all the time.

In animals, the difference in eastern and western coyotes is thought to come from eastern coyotes interbreeding with eastern wolf populations.

A Beefalo, a cross between a cow and an American Bison is fertile. And delicious.

Q3: How many mutations, on average, are required per speciation?

M: Again, "How deep is a hole?" This is an attempt to force a respondent to agree with the query. Definite game designer strategy. Unless it's complete ignorance.

BIO: There isn’t a set number of mutations that would trigger speciation, or even an “average.” Reproductive isolation is one of the major “hallmarks” of speciation, and even that threshold can be debatable. If a single gene mutated such that a fly reproduced either twice as fast or twice as long as others of its egg-mates, it has the opportunity to found a new species. It’d be a derivative species, and the first generations would be crosses with the primary species, but the resulting offspring who mated later (and later, and later) would be more likely to reproduce with each other, while the ones who reproduced sooner would generally reach sexual maturity at roughly the same time and breed with each other.

NEURO: Response: As above – it's not the number of mutations... unless that mutation results in the formation of additional/fewer chromosomes. But that's a "Whole' Nother Thang" that will take a lot more time to discuss than this single [comment].

ENT: Mutation is not the only way to speciate. Behaviour is one. Adaptation (via upregulation or down regulation as influence by environment) is another. So is geographic isolation.

And what type of mutations? SNPs? Gene duplication? Gene loss? Gene birth? Horizontal gene transfer?

To be honest, this question doesn't make a lot of sense to me.[It's not supposed to. It's supposed to sound cool for ignorati who want to think your confused look is some kind of moral score—Mike]

Q4: What scientifically significant predictive model relies primarily upon evolution by natural selection?

BIO: I’m afraid, to me, that question doesn’t make sense. Those who have academic experience may be better suited to answering it, because my response is “Er, evolution as we understand it today.” Evolution, by the way, is a description of a process we know exists. We just may not have all the answers and reasons about how/why it works the way it does. To make that assumption – when we clearly are still acquiring knowledge and information – would be a special kind of hubris. Say, the sort reserved for “climate scientists” and “politicians” (but I repeat myself).

We’ve also (recently) discovered that environmental stress can bring change to how the DNA-assisted protein expression works. In essence, the mutations build up “in the background” because they’re in noncritical areas. Environmental stress causes those parts of the DNA to be expressed, resulting in the potential for rapid, multi-variable mutation expression in just a single generation. The new generation’s members which survive to reproductive age set the stage for the potential speciation.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121206142014.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24337296 (HSP90 as a capacitor for loss of eyes in cavefish; 2013 Dec 13)

Article with a large number of linked/cited articles https://www.simonsfoundation.org/quanta/20140115-under-pressure-does-evolution-evolve/

NEURO: Response: Again, Bio has a great response regarding scientific theories, but I'll go one step further and state that *I* think the scientific model(s) most dependent on evolution and natural selection is the study of epidemiology and disease. There is clear evidence of rapid mutation and "selection" or viruses and bacteria. Human health is highly dependent on inherited traits. BTW, the only difference between natural selection and GMOs is that someone has manipulated the environment to speed up evolutionary process.

Minirant #1: Creationism is damaging to science and society, but Conservative Christians don't have a lock on the principle. Anti-GMO, anti-vaccination liberals are even *more* damaging because they are *directly* affecting human societal health. You can overcome Creationism in time with education. You just don't have *time* to overcome a previously eradicated childhood disease which resurges to kill millions. [NOTE:  VOX IS ALSO AN ANTI-VAXXER--MIKE]

ENT: As was mentioned by Neuro, humans and their diseases is an excellent example. The "sickle cell" mutation to help humans survive a malarial infection is one that comes to mind.

Q5: Which of the various human sub- species is the most evolved; i.e. modified by mutation and natural selection from the most recent common human ancestor? Which is the least evolved?

M: Define "evolved." There is no more or less. Andean natives are evolved to survive at altitudes that would kill Hawaiians. Tierre Del Fuegans can survive naked at temperatures that would kill Arabs, and vice versa.

If the question is a timeline one regarding modern humans, then I believe the San Bushmen are closest to our Paleolithic Cro-Magnon forebears, and blond Northern Europeans are the most recent of gross appearance genotypes. But, Northern Europeans incorporate Neanderthal DNA, Asians and Pacific peoples Denisovan DNA, and Sub Saharan Africans do not.

The answer to question as phrased (Because it's a really bad question) is, "Modern humans are the most evolved human species from our most recent ancestor." Denisovans, Neanderthals, and arguably Heidelbergensis and Habilis were all human. Neanderthals certainly displayed considerable behavioral modernity.

Really, is there some point to this? I recall some conspiracy nut trying to prove the existence of a banking conspiracy insisting, "Ask your mortgage holder to sign a statement that the bank doesn't use the same bookkeeping method as if they stole your house and sold it back to you." Naturally, he claimed that refusal to sign it proved his point, and naturally, no one with any brains in the finance sector is going to sign anything not written in legalese and vetted by the legal department.

This question is crap.

BIO: Snark answer: What, is someone needing their superiority complex fluffed up again?

Of the human subspecies we know about, we only have some DNA evidence. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24603-mystery-human-species-emerges-from-denisovan-genome.html#.UzvvTqzD9hE indicates we split off from the Denisovans and Neanderthals approximately 400 thousand years ago, and they split sometime after that. The Denisovans then appear to have interbred with an even more archaic population, picking up trace signals from that. Now it appears that some of the African hunter-gatherer groups (who have long been held to be the ‘purest’) interbred about 35 thousand years ago with a different archaic group, which split off from our lineage 700 thousand years ago. (Unfortunately, the papers involved seem to be paywalled, and I can’t get to them directly.) So, how can we even begin to suggest one group is more “evolved” than the other? We’re still figuring out about our own DNA, let alone any other archaic group’s.

NEURO: Response: The most recent common ancestors were omnivorous sub-tropical hunter-gatherers. Based on deviation from the likely *direct* lineage (Fertile Crescent and sub-Saharan Africa), that would make the Inuit and Scandinavians the most "evolved" – The environmental adaptations to cold, lack of sunlight, and a much more heavily carnivorous diet are the most obvious adaptations, but remember, so much of that "selection" and "evolution" is Lamarckian theory which is largely discarded (and I say "largely" instead of "entirely" only because of recent evidence that epigenetic changes can be inherited). In point of fact, the sedentary, obese, urban metrosexual cubicle dweller is the most divergent from human evolutionary paths.

ENT: Again, as mentioned it would be those human populations that have been relatively isolated and become adapted to their environments.

Also, "sub-species"? No one in taxonomy, biogeography, etc., uses that term anymore. It's archaic.

"Which is the least evolved?"

I am assuming that this poorly worded question is asking which of the human populations could be considered the most robust and least modified. The answer is typically the populations from sub-Saharan Africa. As more people get their genome sequenced, this answer may become more precise.

6: Is the theory of evolution by natural selection strengthened or weakened by the claim that most DNA is devoid of purpose?

M: The existence of said DNA has no effect on the theory. Only the utilization of it in mutations would have an effect. IIRC, it was initially understood to be random leftovers, but quickly determined to be a pool of available material to utilize as needed, sort of a garage full of "junk" that includes a motorcycle, tools, cleaning solvent, blowtorches and springs. It's junk when you live in the suburbs with a healthy income. When civilization collapses, it suddenly becomes worth more than gold.

Seriously, when was the last time this guy read a basic science book? 8th grade?

BIO: It’s a claim that DNA has “junk” space in it. Some of it does not appear to code for genes – as far as we can tell. However, see above for the previously-suppressed mutations being expressed under environmental stress. From what we can tell, parts of the DNA that previously seemed to be “junk” may in fact be coding protein structure not just protein molecules.

See: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/250006.php Quote: “A staggering batch of over 30 papers published in Nature, Science, and other journals this month, firmly rejects the idea that, apart from the 1% of the human genome that codes for proteins, most of our DNA is "junk" that has accumulated over time like some evolutionary flotsam and jetsam.

The papers, representing 10 years of work of the ENCODE ("Encyclopedia of DNA Elements") project, completed by hundreds of scientists from dozens of labs around the world, reveal that 80% of the human genome serves some purpose and is biochemically active, for example, in regulating the expression of genes situated nearby.”

So, based on our most recent and available research, that is a debunked claim (and as far as I know, it was always debated that we just didn’t know the purposes yet). It is meaningless for “strengthening or weakening” the theory of evolution. However, because at least 80% of DNA has some functional ability (and perhaps more), I’d say that means evolutionary theory is pretty robust. If we kept ALL archaic DNA that ever showed up in the genome, the percentage of active processing would be far lower. That’d mean at least most of those viral remnants have been kept … because they were useful.

NEURO: Counter question: Well, is the astronomical theory of a heliocentric solar system strengthened or weakened by the fact that Pluto is not a planet or that the Moon should be?

Response: Frankly, this is a diversion – first it isn't true that most DNA is devoid of purpose. Think of it as not just a computer program, but a complete Operating System, including boot sequence, interrupt vectors and machine-code subroutines. True, a *lot* of DNA is legacy code, but a lot is also structural. In order to "curl" and compact the DNA strands into the structure we call "chromosomes", there have to be specific molecular structures at specific distances along the strand. Hence there are specific structural components and spacing to form the 3-D structure. There's also instructional code necessary for growth and development (analogous to the boot-up sequence) which guides development, then shuts off. There's "subroutines" for immune functions which are only needed to create the specific immune reaction to a disease, there's duplicates of code utilized to repair random errors, there's stop and start codes for transcriptions. Frankly, like any good programming language, there's structural elements that do nothing more than to establish sequence and timing. We now know that there's a lot of old viral code stored in our DNA, it *had* a function at one time, but like MicroSoft, our DNA never throws out legacy code no matter how out of date – after all, our bodies still (mostly) have an appendix, tonsils and redundant gonads.

I'll close this with...

Minirant #2: Actually – new-age mysticism, "crystal power", Occupy Wall Street, the various forms of environmental luddites, Greenies, people who distrust 'materialist science', race-baiters, Dept. of Education bureaucrats, IPCC, and antivaxxers are THE NUMBER ONE threat to scientific progress. Considering that prior to the 20th century, "scientists" were quite often monks doing isolated work on their own, religion doesn't come anywhere close. Yes, there are abuses today, but frankly, it's largely an excuse and a diversion from the *real* problem.

ENT: Introns are not devoid of purpose.

The 'Junk DNA' seems to have a number of semi-dismantled viruses that are kept around. Some bits seem to be duplicated genes that act as an open lab for evolution to tinker with without having deleterious effects. Other parts could be genes that we've lost the promoter regions to, so they aren't turned on (expressed).

~~~~

Beale admits he couldn’t do the college math for real science, yet arrogates to himself the authority to tell real scientists he knows more than they, because God.

He might want to try pot instead. He'll come up with more rational questions.

These questions are akin to the ones 2nd Amendment activists get regarding, "But 'well-regulated!'" and "assault weapons of mass murder!" and other emotion-begging crap that has no support, but sounds impressive.

Beale is a decent musician (he co-founded Psykosonik), probably a decent game designer (I don't play most games), but as a scientist, he's a pretty good musician and game designer.

I'm going to assume he's just trolling and knows better. If so, he makes a valid point that your typical layperson really doesn't understand science.

On the other hand, he also seems to be stuck in a religious perspective that "science" is like a church and is concerned with comfort and safety and keeping out the infidel. Certainly there are people practicing science who act that way—human beings are flawed. But in contemporary vernacular, the battle cry of a scientist is supposed to be, "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!" to disprove everything put into the arena. Only that which survives battle is accepted into the category of knowledge known as "theory," which includes thermodynamics, evolution, and gravity.

Using an example where I agree with his statements but for rational, rather than emotional reasons, look at the climate science pages on Wikipedia, then look at the geology pages regarding the future of the Earth. The geologists, thinking in much longer time spans, generally regard the climate scientists as gadflies. There's money in climate science for political ends, as there is in ag science (both ways in each). What there isn't money in is human origin (or geology, unless it's for mineral development, that cursed capitalism). Sure, you can choose to believe in some huge Satanic conspiracy to destroy Christianity, but organized religion seems to be doing the job itself just fine.

But given that Beale's blog has people who believe in mystical crop circles, 9-11 conspiracies, magical auras, and…aw, hell, here's a quote from a few days ago, challenging my "belief" in evolution:

~~~

PhillipGeorge(c)2014 August 13, 2014 8:20 AM

Michael Z. Williamson: just run the abiogenesis experiments and get back to us. Or statistically refute Rupert Sheldrake's morphic fields. Or in the middle of the night without assistance or detection make a crop circle - of the complexity and beauty of those actually occurring in the real world - or neurologically explain memory, etc etc etc. It actually isn't going to happen.

because, well, mantra me well, scientist.

~~~

I'm sure it feels great to lord intellect over a crowd like that, but it really doesn't take much.

If Beale wants a debate with actual scientists, however, I can arrange it. He obviously hasn't so far. I would speculate that bluster aside, he's terrified that his mythological beliefs are rapidly becoming so quaint they compare to Just So stories and the moon myths of coastal East Africans.

Or he could just be a troll.

I see no indication of any supergenius level intellect, merely an attempt to throw crap against a wall and see what sticks.

Glad we could bring a pressure washer.

In counter, I'd like an answer to the following questions:

The Bible clearly states pi = 3, that rabbits chew a cud, that bats are birds and whales are fish, locusts walk on four legs, and heaven is held up by four pillars and has storehouses of hailstones.

Are these metaphorical or literal statements?

If literal, the Bible is a load of crap from a scientific perspective. If metaphorical, isn't it apparent the entire document is intended to be a guiding principle, not an astrophysics text?

Where in the Bible is DNA mentioned and defined?

Why is the Christian variation of the Jewish creation myth, derived from the Mesopotamian and Zoroastrian creation myths worthy of note as "science"? Why isn't the much more supportable Hindu creation myth preferred?

EDIT:  He apparently did respond on his blog, in exactly the fashion I expected: He ignored the scientists, quoted me (even though I'm not an atheist) and belabored his idiotic "logic."  I suppose next he'll disprove relativity, because "logically" more thrust creates more velocity.

Regardless of boasts about his intellect, he has very little. He's merely good at rephrasing things for his own benefit. Perhaps he should have taken up the profession of law.